“All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful” – Horikoshi
THE WIND RISES marks Hayao Miyazaki’s final film of his career — a fitting masterpiece that is undeniably worth seeing to remind ourselves why Miyazaki is hailed as a legendary animation director by fellow colleagues, rivals, and fans from around the world.
Written and directed by the ingenious man behind My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle, The Wind Rises is adapted from Miyazaki’s own manga of the same name which was loosely based on the short story of Tatsuo Hori’s The Wind Has Risen.
The Wind Rises is a captivating story about a young boy, Jiro Horikoshi, who dreams of flying and creating beautiful airplanes that will one day grace the blue skies. Inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni, Jiro soon becomes one of the world’s most accomplished aircraft designers as he joins the aircraft division of a major Japanese engineering company.
The Wind Rises is an exquisite, old-fashioned masterpiece that chronologically follows the historical account of Jiro Horikoshi’s life, the designer who brought about the creation of the infamous Mitsubishi aircrafts which were used throughout World War II.
Again, Miyazaki proves that he is invincible when it comes to the art of storytelling and hand-drawn animation. While The Wind Rises doesn’t have a distinctive fantastical world like Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away, the film still manages to sweep the audience off their feet with its marvelous Monet landscapes, and its gracefully animated scenes showcasing the beauty of flight in this whimsical world of reality.
In terms of storytelling, it’s Miyazaki’s most ambitious film to date with its historical references; foreign dialogue and characters; political jabs; and a bittersweet romance that will enchant you from start to finish. It’s not often we would watch a film about airplanes but the film makes us appreciate the brilliance of flight and dreams, and how far humanity and technology has come since then.
Like any breeze in the sky, The Wind Rises took its time to develop its story as we witness the remarkable progression of Horikoshi’s dream of becoming an aircraft designer. But of course, Jiro’s life isn’t smooth-sailing as his dreams become challenged by the course of reality along the way.
Jiro was no longer creating airplanes for passion – instead, he was creating airplanes for war and money. His life ultimately gets disrupted by notable historical events such as the great Kanto earthquake, the tuberculosis epidemic, and Japan’s involvement in war. Amidst these troubled times, Horikoshi forms a cherished friendship with his colleague, Honjou, and falls in love with the ever-so-lovely Naoko after crossing paths once again on (another) fated windy day.
Despite losing his most beloved treasure in the end, Jiro strives to keep his passion blazing in order to fulfill his dream: a dream that he worked so hard for; a dream that was supported by others when he didn’t have much; a dream that led him to become the person he is today.
While it’s such an incredibly moving plot with many elements involved, the story is unfortunately not as emotionally powerful or in-depth that it potentially could have been as pacing and character development issues were insufficiently short-lived.
From Jiro’s troubled times to his summer romance with Naoko, orchestrating through the ups and downs of Jiro’s life is the melodramatic and bittersweet sounds of music composer, Joe Hisaishi. Joe has once again composed a charmingly delicate soundtrack for The Wind Rises, but surprisingly, the real musical winner is the theme song — Yumi’s 1973 song ‘Hikōki-gumo’ — a-40-year-old song that has been swept back to life, taking the film to a whole new level of sombreness.
The voice-acting cast was also delightful, with notable performances by Mirai Shida as the overprotective sister Kayo, and Miori Takimoto as the lovely Naoko. Masahiko Nishimura (Mr Kurokawa) certainly drew some laughs from the audience, but the main concern was the casting of Hideako Anno for Horikoshi’s character. Best known as the director of the infamous series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Anno’s voice was an odd casting decision as his voice is very mature and emotionless for such a complex character like Jiro. Nevertheless, Anno seemed fitting towards the end, and besides, it’s difficult to envision a voice (other than Hideako Anno) for the role.
Verdict: For a film that has been solely directed by Miyazaki in five years — his last work was Ponyo (2008) — The Wind Rises was the highest-grossing film in Japan in 2013 and received general acclaim from critics. With several nominations under Miyazaki’s belt, it goes to say how his works are still appreciated worldwide — with both fans and critics. While the story is probably not as powerful or visually memorable like his previous works, The Wind Rises is a nice addition to his collection of works, and will be remembered well as his ‘final’ film.
We know one thing for sure …
The beauty of flight and dreams will always live on, just like Hayao Miyazaki’s films.